Killer Bees

Killer Bees are indigenous to Africa. In 1957, 26 African queen bees were (supposedly) accidentally released from Warwick Kerr's research lab in Brazil. Warwick Kerr had smuggled the bees out of central Africa a year earlier. It was a part of his effort to improve the honey production of Brazilian bees. (In this, the bees have proven very successful as Brazil has risen from the world's 47th largest honey producer to one of the top ten.)

The term "killer bee" is a bit extravagant, as the number of reported deaths by killer bees is relatively minuscule when compared to other "leading causes of death," but whatever its origins, the killer bee name has adhered through time, as has their reputation for mob attacks. In truth, African (killer) bees do not have a more powerful sting than European honeybees that were introduced in this hemisphere in the 17th and 18th centuries; they are simply much more aggressive. While European bees will pursue their agitators for short distances in small groups of rarely more than 100 in strength, killer bees attack in swarms of up to 80,000 and will chase their targets for up to half a mile. Unlike their rather docile European cousins, killer bees tend to perceive even the slightest provocation as life-threatening and respond with an attack.

The most notable attack on record occurred in 1986, involving Inn-Saing Ooi, a 24-year-old University of Miami graduate student, who, on a field trip to Costa Rica, got his foot caught in a crack in the rocks outside of a cave. His presence disturbed a colony of killer bees, and Ooi, unable to free his foot, was swarmed upon by a horde of African bees. He died after being stung almost 8000 times.

SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE:

Killer bees entered the United States in 1990 through migration from Africa via Brazil. At present, killer bees are very much capable of migrating further up in the country, possibly colonizing several areas in the United States. Of course, something will surely hinder their approach should it become a subject of concern to the U.S.

CURRENT STATUS:

By 1994, the offspring of the original bees of Kerr's had colonized more than six million square acres in the Americas. Since then, they have been steadily adapting to the different environments and reaching outward, moving northward at a rate of 200 to 300 miles a year, and spreading east and west in lesser radii.

STORY IDEAS:

You would be hard pressed to write a story wholly on bees. It would be much more convenient to incorporate people and supporting characters into a plot of some sort. The "Jurassic Park" thing, where an intended attraction goes awry, or the "Outbreak" sort of thing where a team of people go into the field to wipe out the problem would both make interesting story topics, as would the "The Birds" gig, where billions of bees flood a city and wreak havoc on the populace. We also like the "Predator" theme, where a group of men go into South America and decimate everything. It's kind of far fetched, but maybe they could be going after the man who unleashed the hordes upon civilization.

 


About the Authors

Two students in Mr. Abouaf's first period Integrated Science class at West High School in Torrance, California researched and prepared this report.

 

 


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